Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the Lagos State governor, on Thursday said if Nigeria must get out of the woods, it must begin now to take concrete steps towards empowering every group in the society and give ears to their views and aspirations, saying it is only in such situation that the country can truly end extreme poverty.
Governor Ambode, who stated this while delivering a paper to commemorate the 75th Anniversary Business Lecture of the Island Club, said Nigeria must aggressively pursue strong social inclusion policies in order to build a virile nation where every member of the society, regardless of their status or creed is catered for.
The Governor who spoke on the topic ‘Nation Building: Communities, Inclusion and Prosperity’, said presently there were various indices that present a worrying picture, stressing that the country must address it by taking actions that would change the narrative and engender prosperity.
“A sustainable path towards ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity also involves creating an inclusive society, not only in terms of economic welfare but also in terms of the voice and empowerment of all groups.
“We must begin to realise that every strata of the society counts, we must listen and accommodate all views, whether they are poor, whether they are Igbos, Hausas, whether they are Muslims or Christians.
“An inclusive society must have the institutions, structures and processes that empower local communities, professional associations, artisans, CDAs so they can hold government accountable.
“It also requires the participation of all groups in society, including traditionally marginalised groups such as ethnic minorities and indigenous populations in decision making processes,” he said.
Highlighting the Lagos example of inclusion and prosperity, Ambode said his administration in the last three years, despite the population and migration challenges vis-a-vis pressure on physical and social infrastructure, had continued to carry out massive upgrade of its infrastructure, which according to him, would have improved the lives of all residents and ultimately the economy.
“We believe that every Lagosian must have the opportunity to grow, develop their own skills and contribute to their families and communities in a meaningful way.
“If they are healthy, well educated and trained to enter the workforce and are able to make a decent wage, they are better equipped to meet their basic needs and be successful. Their families will also do well and the whole society will benefit. The aggregate sum of family well-being is the meat for nation building,” he said.
The governor said that his administration had concentrated on creating an environment for investments to thrive, saying that deliberate steps were also taken to encourage the private sector to take the front seat and grow the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the state.
He listed development of Tourism, Hospitality, Arts, Sports and Entertainment sectors, development of an integrated and modern inter-modal transportation system, Employment Trust Fund, CodeLagos and Ready-Set-Work as some of the strategies evolved over the last three years that had recorded huge impact in the state’s economy.
“Our Employment Trust Fund has disbursed N5.84billion to 7, 880 Lagosians out of which 1,123 have fully repaid their loans. This is a revolving fund that targets inclusion and prosperity.
“Over 25,000 jobs were created through the loans and employability programmes and to ensure inclusion, 3,613 women received N2.29billion while N1.44billion was disbursed to individuals less than 35 years and at least N100million in each local government of the state,” Ambode said.
“In terms of inclusion and prosperity, our vision to make Lagos safer and more prosperous is driven by the need to foster and build an inclusive society, a Lagos that works for all of us. This has been our primary focus in the last three and half years.
“This vision of making Lagos Africa’s model mega city and global economic and financial hub is reflected in everything that we have been doing, bringing our communities together to ensure the future prosperity of Lagos State is non-negotiable. I am convinced that we are on the right trajectory and that’s the way to go if Lagos is going to show a very good example to the rest of the country,” he said.
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On the way forward, Ambode said to ensure inclusion and evolve prosperous communities, social policy needed to move beyond conventional social service approaches towards development’s goals of equitable opportunity and social justice.
Expressing optimism that the Nigeria economy was showing positive indices of recovery and encouraging outlook for the future, he said economists had posited that for Nigeria to attain its potential, the economy needs to move at a growth rate of six to seven per cent per year as the population growth was above three per cent.
“To meet our growth ambition, we need jobs and we need to increase productivity too. Nigeria has the advantage of a large population, but the majority is under-skilled. It is imperative to equip workers with the skills needed to keep pace with an economy in transition like Nigeria.
“We need to close that in economic and political gap between women and men in this country. Providing both girls and boys with education is going to be our first step. Quality education is the basis for job and income, a modern competitive economy needs the best heads and hands regardless of gender. This is just sound economics and simple common sense.
“Government needs to implement structural reforms to enhance efficiency, making valued long term investment in technology and science to support research and development. In addition, government also needs to support the economy to provide jobs for their fast growing job population,” Ambode said.
Earlier, Chairman of Island Club in his welcome address thanked Governor Ambode for his support to the Club since he assumed office, saying that he had not only followed the footsteps of his predecessors as Patron of the Club, but had on some occasions, moved a notch further than they did.
Also speaking, a former chairman of the Club, Chief Olumuyiwa Falomo, lauded the governor for his developmental strides in the last three and half years, assuring him that history would be kind to him.
“Only God knows the future, just carry on regardless, the reward of being very conscientious with what you do will come sooner than later and my prayer for you is that God will guide you and the sky will be your limit,” Falomo said.
Highlight of the lecture was the launch of the anniversary brochure and the commissioning of the car park project initiated by the club.